Co-Innovation: Staying Competitive In Business

Randi Purser

In today’s hyper-competitive business environment where change is constant, companies are constantly seeking ways to stay competitive in the marketplace and disrupt the industries in which they operate. SAP executive Geny Caballero shares her insight about a new and innovative business approach to confront these challenges head-on: co-innovation.

Hi, Geny, thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts with us. Can you start by explaining what co-innovation is?

Co-innovation, or open innovation, is when a company works directly with its customers and partners to solve business problems. By doing so, these companies are able to elevate and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

What is the purpose of co-innovation?

Industry boundaries are shifting, which makes aspects of doing business more complex. Beyond the benefits of the engagement itself, co-innovation allows the parties involved to share resources collectively and collaborate on a solution. Ultimately, this frees up resources of individual companies to focus on those aspects in their business that are their differentiating factors from their competitors.

Additionally, the speed of co-innovation allows quicker insights on shifting market and industry trends, which provides the customer with the agility to predict and adapt to these trends. Networking opportunities and executive alignment are also important factors.

How can companies make co-innovation a success?

There are a few key ingredients for successful co-innovation.

First, the company leading the initiative should bring in their customers and the customers’ partners and industry peers to discuss co-innovation ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. The goal should be to bring in a diverse team with different skill sets, tenures, and backgrounds to foster the sharing of new ideas and perspectives.

For co-innovation initiatives that involve a consortium, it is important to establish risk-and-reward sharing models that benefit all participants. A consortium is a group of peers, individuals, customers, or partners associated with a common objective. For instance, we have a team at SAP that is currently leading a co-innovation initiative with several market leaders to identify ways to address a common business challenge shared by the participants. Collaborating on this challenge will help establish new business standards within the industry that will equally benefit operations across the participants.

Lastly, utilizing industry and customer input early on provides a sense of ownership and creates stronger relationships by establishing trust between a company and its customers during the co-innovation process.

What are some of the key business benefits that can be realized from co-innovation?

  • Risk-sharing, cost-sharing, validation of best practices
  • Enabling agility for innovation within the organizations with a shared outcome and goal
  • Allowing cross-pollination of industries, possibly creating new products and technologies
  • Fostering customer alignments and sponsorships
  • Participating in defining a future solution

Can you give me an example of a co-innovation success story? 

Absolutely. My team had the opportunity to lead a cloud-based consortium for the life sciences industry, where we worked with three industry leaders to define a solution to address upcoming government regulation. This took a few months of discussions to define an approach that would meet the market demands, but ultimately the three industry leaders in the co-innovation engagement were able to influence that approach, which later became an SAP cloud product in the market.

About Geny Caballero

geny caballeroGeny Caballero is the go-to-market leader for the North America Innovation Services and Solutions at SAP. She joined SAP America in 2001 and has over 18 years’ experience in technology in various roles.

Geny’s career has progressed through the organization focusing on innovative services and solutions, sales, planning, and execution of strategic topics for Fortune 100 companies in the consumer product goods, agriculture, chemicals, oil and gas, and life sciences industries.

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Randi Purser

About Randi Purser

Randi Purser is a marketing professional for the SAP Innovation Services and Solutions (ISS) business unit at SAP. A recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Randi uses her creativity and passion for writing to deliver compelling social media and marketing content that showcases how ISS is making innovation real for customers.